The Occupy protests have spread to Sarasota and continue expanding, but to what end no one seems to know — including the demonstrators. The philosophies expressed in endless interviews range from incoherent to Marxist, with the stray libertarian throw in.
But one thing is clear. The occupiers are not the tea party in the way some commentators would like. But there is one sense in which the occupiers and the tea party are alike: They are both natural outcomes of the two broad ideologies that divide the country.
The tea party is the natural product of the right, focusing on personal responsibility, faith, family, capitalism, individualism and traditional America. It is made up of people who go to work daily, make products and offer services, pay taxes and serve the community. They love the country and are proud to be Americans. In essence, despite a media caricature, they are not the extreme, but a chunk of the mainstream who make America work and want to save the American way of life.
The occupiers are the natural outcome of the grievance-oriented, redistributive left at the core of modern progressivism. They are filled with students, the unemployed and the angry. They largely don’t pay taxes, they take taxes. They do not produce, they consume. They are not out to preserve the American way of life but to destroy it for some undefined alternative.
Tea party members show up for a few hours at a rally or event because they have jobs and families. The occupiers, by definition tend to stay put because they do not have jobs and most do not appear to be supporting families. Plus, it turns out that some of the protesters have been paid to show up at some events, and there is growing evidence that there has been quite a bit of union efforts involved.
The occupiers have brought litter, disorder and stench to their permanent demonstrations on Wall Street — part of living on the street. The tea party is noted for leaving the Washington, D.C., mall cleaner than it found it. In hundreds of events, there has never been one tea party arrest. The occupiers’ protests have seen 700 arrests so far.
Tea partyers have a general idea of where most of the problems lie, and that is with government policies and government getting in bed with big business and Wall Street. (Think automaker bailouts.) Therefore we need new public policies.
The occupiers look mostly at the rich, and see the solution in destroying what is, without really knowing what they want to replace it with. Socialist utopia is a well-documented nightmare. And destruction without purpose is never, ever good.
Tea party events are resplendent with American flags, kids in strollers and a list of specific policy changes. The occupiers, not so much.
No, despite many attempts to cast them as the same kind of groups, just different ideologies, these two groups are not alike at all — except where they represent the natural outgrowth of the two dominant philosophies.
So what is it that occupies the occupiers’ minds? We asked Gov. Rick Scott his thoughts on the occupiers when he was at the Observer Group office Monday. His first response was: “What do they want?”
No one seems to know. Even by street protest standards, there is such ignorance and silly student hyperbole as to make it laughable.
In the Occupy Sarasota demonstrations last week, the group was more eclectic than the original Wall Street group, with lots of typical college kids, the unemployed and a smattering of older people.
The comments, though, remained vague at best.
There was a strong anti-capitalist theme running through the signs and the comments of protesters, including by those who were in college, apparently not understanding that when they eventually graduate to the real world they will be seeking employment from capitalists — unless, of course, they get jobs with government, which, of course, is funded by taxpayers who earn their livelihoods via capitalism.
The occupiers look to be bent on destruction, and my prediction is that is exactly what will begin to happen more.
Tea partyers clean up and build.
The two are not remotely the same.
Rod Thomson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.